By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — — Thanks to the recent Casey Middle School renovation, educators there have created an expanded fitness program for students.
The building now has a much larger fitness center room, where physical education students can use stationary spin bikes, elliptical machines, treadmills and weight machines.
In addition, Casey has a new multi-purpose room that is used for aerobics and other high-energy activities. The room also functions as a cafeteria.
“We want kids to take on healthy lifestyles,” said Casey Principal Mary McGreer. “We recognize that obesity and unhealthy eating has brought a rise in diabetes and other health-related conditions. … If we help give them the skills and the tools, (then) they could live a longer, healthier, more productive life.”
The $6.5 million Casey Middle School expansion/renovation was completed this past fall.
Included in the project was the construction of a brand new, two-story addition for sixth grade students, as well as other improvements like the expanded fitness center and new multi-purpose room.
Prior to the renovation, the Casey school did have a fitness room, but it was much smaller than the current one.
“I like it bigger,” said Casey eighth grader Ellen Hoffman, who was exercising in the fitness center as part of her PE class Thursday. “In the old fitness room, it was like all squished and jammed together, and now we have like a lot of room.”
Eighth grader Deshawna Jennings was also working out in the center Thursday. She often runs on the treadmills and sometimes competes with her friend to see who can run the farthest.
“I think it's better than the other one,” Jennings said of the room. “There's more space to move around.”
The school's fitness center is used on an alternating basis by boys and girls PE classes, McGreer said. One week the boys will have the gym and the girls will have the center. Then the next week they'll switch.
“The kids love it,” McGreer said. “I have kids say, 'it's just like the grown-up gyms.' They enjoy it, and there's a focus on the fitness rather than aesthetics.”
McGreer said the multi-purpose room is brand new for the school.
It includes a sophisticated screen and projector system used to play aerobics and other exercise videos for the students. The students can then perform the exercise routines in the room's wide open space.
Equipment for this room was purchased with the help of a grant from the Schweinfurth Foundation, McGreer said.
“They support the arts, but also physical education,” McGreer said of the foundation. “They were very generous.”
Students also have input on what aerobics routines are featured in the multi-purpose room, McGreer said.
On Thursday, eighth grade girls were performing a high-energy Zumba work-out, and some students have requested “Hip Hop Abs” for a future routine, McGreer said.
“If you find (a routine) that interests a student, then they might stick with that activity and keep doing it on their own time,” McGreer said.